The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

We grow our sweetcorn in a large recycled storage bin

First sweetcorn cobs of the seasonAn old friend of ours, Edward Twentyman, used to tell us how delicious corn on the cob is if it is harvested and cooked within minutes.

“Once the cob is cut, the sugar starts to turn to starch.”

Now that we grow sweetcorn ourselves we’ve found this fact to be true. Unfortunately for us, Edward and his wife Chantal moved to France a few years ago. They are defenitely not the couple whose story ends this post! Tonight we are going to enjoy the first two cobs of the season. As an accompaniment to pork chops baked with a couple of tablespoons of our own wild plum jelly (click on August 21 2006 for the recipe). We will also be feasting on our round courgettes, dipped in plain flour with a good dash of pepper and salt, and fried gently in garlic infused olive oil until soft. Today the cobs will be baked in the oven but they are better grilled, I think.If you grow sweetcorn in a border, the plants have to be at least 12″ apart in rows 12″ apart and have to be grown in blocks, to enable wind pollination of the female flowers. The plants grow to statuesque proportions, often over 5′, so can cut out the light to other vegetables in the kitchen garden. A great way of getting around this problem is to grow sweetcorn in a very large pot, as the plants can be raised much closer together. I found an old plastic storage bin a couple of years ago, which is ideal. The sort of thing that you can find in Homebase for storing toys. Even at high street prices, these sturdy containers are much cheaper than buying giant terracotta or even plastic pots. I drilled some holes in the bottom of my recycled one for drainage.

I plant the sweetcorn in a mixture of compost from last year’s tomato grow-bags and some good compost from our composting bin. They do really well. We grow 7 plants in this 17″ (diameter) x 14″ (deep) pot and cut at least 3 cobs from each plant. I’m not sure how many cobs per plant one can expect from sweetcorn planted in a border.

Every time that I see our pot of tall sweetcorn I remember a holiday in France, deep in the heart of sweetcorn growing country. We were staying in a gite that belonged to an Irish couple who had moved to France to enjoy self sufficiency and the good life. A local French farmer proudly announced that the couple’s teenage sons were helping with the harvest. When we asked in what capacity, he explained, “They are castrating the mice.” We were astonished that the French were operating such a fiddly form of pest control, especially when he complemented them on their use of hefty machetes. Suddenly the penny dropped and we realised that their summer jobs were just cutting sweetcorn cobs and the ‘mice’ that he’d mentioned was the maize.

Tips and Tricks:

  • f growing sweetcorn in pots, put a nutritious mulch around the base of the stems (where you can see a bobbly root growth) at the beginning of July. This helps to stabilise the stems and increases productivity.
  • If you have a glut, sweet corn freezes well. Blanche before freezing.

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  1. nick fimar

    how that french farmer @deep in the heart of gite country” would have laughed if he knew you thought he was going to eat maize. to the french corn is cattle and chicken fodder, ive offered it to many french guests, just to get a kick out of thier reaction.
    thier loss i guess. we here at my gite, sorryI mean appartment, in louisiana love the stuff.

  2. Judith Alder

    Hi there. I’m looking for container grown maize or bean plants for an exhibition which is to take place from 3 September 2010 for 2 weeks. I’m having trouble finding the plants I need. Do you have any or know anyone who might have some?
    Any suggestions welcome!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sarah

    If you plant sweetcorn in a tub you can plant them closer together than you would in the ground.

    Last year we had poor results from our tub of sweetcorn so I’m going to plant them in the ground this year.

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